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Aadhaar-Social Media Link

  Jun 13, 2020

Aadhaar-Social Media Link

Who are the intermediaries?

Information Technology Act, 2000 says intermediaries are telecom service providers, Internet service providers, web-hosting service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online auction sites, online market places, cyber cafes etc. Section 87 of the IT Act gives power to the central government to frame Rules. Centre did so in 2011 to regulate intermediaries.

What were the cases and where were they pending?

In Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts, appeals were pending about regulation of intermediaries.

The social media sites like Facebook want all these cases from the High Courts to be taken up by the apex court so that the ruling will have national application; and can not be challenges thus removing room for uncertainty and delay. The social media platforms have been opposed to this move to link user profiles with Aadhaar as it would reduce their traffic and revenues. 

Where is the need to regulate the sites?

  • There are messages whose content spread/shared on the social media are harmful and provoke violence
  •  Some messages are against the sovereignty and integrity of the country. 
  • There is pornography and paedophiles use social media extensively
  • Drugs, weapons and other contraband can be sold through the use of platforms run by the intermediaries

It is therefore necessary to control those on the sites as much as the sites themselves.

What does the Supreme Court say?

The Supreme Court said that there is a need to find a balance between the right to online privacy and the right of the state to trace the origins of hateful messages and fake news. Madras High Court dismissed the original prayer to link Aadhaar to social media accounts as it violated the Supreme Court's judgment on Aadhaar. Arguments start in 2020 January in Supreme Court that withdrew the case to itself.

What are the issues?

  1. Privacy of the online users.
  2. Right to privacy being a Fundamental Right may be said to be violated because the restrictions are unreasonable.
  3. When few people misuse the medium, it is not right that all people have their privacy eroded.
  4. Aadhaar is not single-use number and has multiple digital and physical links and thus can not be made mandatory.
  5. Spontaneity and fearlessness that are necessary for free speech will also be sacrificed due to fear.
  6. The focus should be on intermediaries to have the help of artificial intelligence and nodal officers to filter out the unethical and dangerous content for which there is enormous scope.

Does the present Aadhaar Act allow it?

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has said the current legislation only enables use of the unique identity for its schemes and Subsidies funded out of the Consolidated Fund of India. Therefore, for anything outside the purview of the Act, a new law would have to be put in place. This is also the ruling of the apec court in Puttaswamy case where it pronounced right to privacy as a Fundamental Right.